The ambulance bay doors burst open.
Frank glanced up from the computer screen at the sound, and immediately jumped to his feet.
"Get a gurney!" Peter bellowed, shifting the weight of his burden. "Somebody get a gurney!"
Kerry Weaver rushed up to see what all the commotion was about, and froze. Peter Benton was standing in front of the doors, holding the limp body of John Carter in his arms.
Cleo Benton ran up to him, pushing a gurney she had grabbed from the hallway. Kerry hurried to join them as Peter gently placed Carter on it.
"Peter? What is it? What happened?"
"Attempted suicide. Slit wrists and a heroin overdose," Peter answered shortly. "Weak, thready carotid pulse. Resps 6 and shallow. Pressure 80 palp. GCS 5."
"What?" Kerry asked in disbelief, staring up at Peter across Carter's still form.
"Heroin, Kerry! It's a heroin overdose!"
"I don't... I don't understand... what happened?" Kerry stuttered as they rushed Carter into Trauma Two.
"On my count," Peter began, ignoring rather than forgetting that he was no longer an employee. "One, two, three!"
As Carter was lifted from the stretcher to the gurney, Kerry found her voice again. "Well, was it accidental, or...?"
In response, Peter lifted Carter's bandaged left wrist. "What do you think?" Peter turned away from her quickly and began shouting orders to the nurses. "CBC, ABG, Chem 7, Tox Screen, type and cross for three. Get an IV going, dextrose at 50. And I want an EKG, stat!" The nurses also seemed to ignore Peter's status, and jumped into action immediately.
Kerry stared down at Carter's face, still not understanding what was going on. Suddenly, she shook her head and forced herself to focus on the task at hand. "Chuny, call Kovac. Peter, you need to step out."
"Seven point five ET tube," Peter called out to Haleh, and then glanced at Kerry. "No." Haleh exchanged looks with Kerry as she held the sealed tube out to the surgeon. Peter opened it quickly, stepping to the head of the gurney.
"Peter, you don't work here," Kerry reminded him, reaching out to take the ET tube from his hand.
"Kerry..." Peter began, his tone threatening.
Kerry was unaffected by his menacing voice. She glanced out the door at Cleo, who pushed the doors open quickly and stepped in. "Out, Peter!" Kerry commanded.
"Peter, come on," Cleo said softly, reaching out her hand to him.
Chuny ran back in. "Kovac will be here as soon as he can. He just needs to clock back in."
Peter shoved the tube into Kerry's hand roughly and backed away slowly. He allowed Cleo to place her hand on his arm to guide him out of the room, but suddenly turned back to Kerry, who had just begun the intubation procedure. "What the hell has been going on around here, Kerry? When I left he was fine!"
"Get out of here!" Kerry spat, her anger boiling to the surface.
"I thought you were supposed to be taking care of him!"
"Out! Now! Before I call security!"
"Come on, Peter," Cleo said, her voice more insistent than before. "Come on."
Peter pulled his arm away from her roughly and stormed from the room, slamming the doors open as he walked through them.
Luka walked through the doors from Trauma One at the exact same moment, pulling gloves on as he did so. "What have we got?"
"Attempted suicide," Kerry said, her confusion from only moments before replaced with efficiency. "Heroin overdose and he slit his wrists."
"Carter?" Luka asked, his voice full of surprise.
"Yes, Carter," Kerry answered. "Got it!" she called out, pulling away from the successful intubation. "Bag him."
"Give me Narcan," Luka ordered Chuny. "A 5 milliliter syringe."
Kerry glanced up from checking Carter's pupils. "What are you doing?"
"Point two milligram Narcan IM," Luka answered.
Kerry shook her head violently. "It's not enough," she said. "He's not been moving enough oxygen. It won't do any good."
"We should give it a chance. We should be careful of his addiction, Kerry. If you give him any more, you could send him into withdrawal."
"He doesn't have time for us to play around with this, Luka," Kerry replied, anger welling again. "Haleh, let's get him in restraints just to be safe. I want 1 milligram of Narcan IV every two minutes. Hyperventilate him."
"Kerry, don't you think we should just slow down here?"
"And watch him die? No!"
Kerry watched as Luka's eyes darkened. He seemed to be glaring at Carter, but then he turned the expression on her. "It's obvious you don't need me here, then. Since you've got everything under control."
"Luka, what are you...?"
Luka pulled his gloves off and stormed back out. "Call me when you have a real emergency, Kerry."
Peter watched as Luka slammed his way through the doors. Without a word to Cleo, he turned to follow Luka into the empty trauma room.
"Damn it!" Kerry cried out in frustration. "Chuny, get that Narcan going! And somebody get another doctor in here!"
"You know, John, I could just say I have an emergency, and take the rest of the day off."
John Carter looked up and smiled, laughing when he saw the expression on Abby Lockhart's face. "An emergency? And what kind of emergency would that be?"
Abby leaned down and wrapped her arms around his neck. "The kind that only you can help me with," she whispered, nibbling lightly on his earlobe.
John grinned and turned to face her. "You know, they make things to help you with that kind of emergency. So you don't need me."
"Oooooooooooh," Abby purred as John stood. "So now you're turning me down?"
"Actually, no," he answered, placing his hands on her hips and pulling her closer to him. "It looks like I'm turning you on."
"You always do," she returned, leaning in to kiss him.
John broke the kiss quickly, and pushed her away. "I know. But...today, I am going home alone. And you are finishing your shift."
"But what are you going to do without me?" Abby pouted.
John shrugged. "I don't know. I'm sure I'll think of something." John grabbed his bag and pulled open the door to the lounge. "There's this cute blonde on the El..."
Abby growled, and threw her coffee cup at John's back as he laughed and walked out the door. "I hate you!" she screamed, her words echoing down the halls of the emergency room.
She stomped her foot at the closing door and crossed her arms, watching the empty styrofoam cup roll across the floor. A few seconds later, the side door opened.
"Love you," John said, smiling.
"Love you too," Abby answered, smiling back at him.
The blood was everywhere.
Carter lay in the bathtub, water pouring down over him from the shower above. Blood was seeping from the deep horizontal slashes in his wrists and staining the water a deep red as it pooled around him. His left arm, which hung awkwardly over the side of the tub, was dripping blood onto the floor.
Peter took it all in in less than a heartbeat: the syringe on the sink, the spoon and the lighter on the floor, the razorblade that lay on the side of the tub. He pulled his cell phone from his pocket quickly and dialed as he knelt beside his friend and felt his neck for a pulse. "Cleo!" he shouted when she answered. "Start the car and open the back door!" Peter stood quickly, digging through the medicine cabinet for bandages. "No, I don't have time to explain! Just do it!" He found two ace bandages and pulled them out quickly, unrolling them and kneeling beside the tub again. "Look, Cleo, I don't have time. Just open the damn door!"
Peter turned the phone off and flung it to the floor, not wanting to take the time to put it back in his pocket again. He turned the water off and wrapped one of the bandages around Carter's left wrist quickly, tying the ends together. He repeated the process on Carter's right wrist, then stood and grabbed an armful of towels. He tried his best to wrap Carter in them as he scooped the young man up in his arms and ran from the room.
"What did you do to him? John!" the old neighbor woman cried from her door as Peter rushed past her.
Peter ignored her and made his way down the stairs as rapidly as he could, shifting his arms occasionally in an attempt to keep from dropping Carter as they descended. "Open the door!" he shouted at the super, who had just appeared in response to the call from the neighbor. "Open the door now! I have to get him to the hospital!"
The super hesitated for only a second, the sight of the blood that covered Peter's shirt and coat convincing him to do as the man had commanded. "What should I do?" he asked as Peter rushed out the door.
"Call the police! And don't touch anything!"
"Peter!" Cleo cried out as she saw him coming down the stairs. "Peter, what happened?"
Peter climbed into the back of the rented SUV, laying Carter down on the back seat and pulling the door shut behind him. "Just go, Cleo!" he ordered, feeling Carter's neck again for a pulse, and then leaning down to listen for breath sounds.
"But shouldn't we call...?"
"We can have him there before they would even get here! Now go!"
Peter pinched Carter's nose shut and placed his own mouth against the younger man's as Cleo pulled the car away from the curb and screeched toward the hospital.
Chapter-specific warning: The suicide attempt is staged at the end of this chapter, and it is shown through the victim's eyes.
"Hey! Carter!" a familiar voice called out from behind him on the El platform.
Carter turned, a broad smile making it's way across his face as he saw who was walking toward him. "Peter!" he called out in greeting, extending his hand. "How are you? What are you doing here? I haven't seen you since the wedding."
Peter Benton took the offered hand and shook it strongly, a small smile on his own face. "Don't get all excited, Carter. Cleo and I are just up for the weekend. There's a show she wants to see, and that Ethnic Market on Monday."
"Really? What show?" Carter asked, stepping aside to let other passengers board the train.
"Um... The Nutcracker actually," Peter answered, rolling his eyes slightly.
"Really?" Carter laughed. "The sugar plum fairy and everything, huh?"
"Not my idea, man. But you know, you gotta keep 'em happy."
Carter smiled. "Yeah. Yeah, you do." He cocked his head as a thought occurred to him. "You know, I've been thinking about taking Abby to see a show. You think we could go with you?"
"I don't see why not," Peter answered with a shrug. "Actually, I think it would probably be a good idea."
"So, how's Reese? I bet he's getting big."
"Yeah. He's almost six now."
"Where is he?"
"Oh, we dropped him off at Roger's for the weekend. Let them have Christmas together. You know."
Carter smiled and nodded. "Man, Peter, I am so glad you showed up. Abby's got three hours left on her shift, and I had no idea what I was going to do this afternoon."
"Well, Cleo's at the hotel taking a nap. I told her I'd pick her up about four. So that leaves..." Peter trailed off as he checked his watch. "Two and a half hours. You want to go grab lunch or something?"
"Yeah," Carter answered, nodding his head. "Doc Magoo's?"
Peter moaned and turned to follow Carter down the steps. "You know, there are places to eat in this city that don't put your life in danger."
"Oh, you risk your life getting out of bed in the morning, Peter. And besides, they make really good cheeseburgers."
"Carter?" Peter called from the hallway, pounding on the door. "Carter? Open the door, man!"
The door on the left opened, and Peter saw an old woman poke her head out. "Who are you?" she asked.
"Oh, sorry. Didn't mean to disturb you," Peter responded, banging his fist against the door again. "Carter!" He looked back at the neighbor. "My friend here, he's a little slow. And I'm getting tired of waiting!" Peter directed the last part of the statement at the still-closed door.
"Well, it's just that they're normally such a quiet couple. They're such nice young people. And since Abby had all that terrible trouble with Brian last year, I get worried when I hear yelling out here. And with all the noise I heard from their apartment earlier..."
"All what noise?" Peter asked, only half listening.
"Banging and thumping and shouting. A lot of shouting. I even thought I heard John scream, but I think it must have been the television. That other young man left, and it's been quiet since then. I think they were arguing."
"What other young man?" Peter asked, suddenly concerned.
"Oh, I don't know his name. I've seen him before though. I think he's a friend of theirs. But today... there was just a lot of noise going on."
"Go back inside," Peter ordered the old woman. He started banging on the door frantically. "Carter! Open this door or I will!" When there was no answer, Peter started ramming his shoulder into it, trying to force it open.
"Really, is that necessary?" the woman asked quietly. "Perhaps John left?"
"Go inside!" Peter responded impatiently, backing up a few steps and running into the door with his shoulder. "This doesn't concern you."
"I'm calling the superintendent," she answered shortly, closing her door and locking it.
"Carter, I'm coming through this door!" Peter bellowed, throwing himself against it again. "And I'm coming through right now!" The door moaned in protest once, then the frame cracked, and Peter fell to the floor inside the apartment.
"Carter!" he called, pushing himself to his feet and looking around. "Carter! Where are you?"
Peter heard water running in the bathroom and walked to it, pushing the door open slowly.
"I can't believe you eat this stuff willingly," Peter said in disgust, poking at the pile of lettuce and cheese in front of him. "Who ever heard of a garden salad with cheese in it?"
Carter smiled at him around the large cheeseburger he'd been about to bite into. "Maybe it's time to rethink that whole vegetarian thing..."
Peter shot a glare in his direction, and Carter smiled. "When was the last time you had a great big juicy cheeseburger?"
Peter rolled his eyes. "Long enough ago that I don't remember what I'm missing."
"Nah...you never forget the good stuff. You may convince yourself that you've forgotten. You may even want to believe you've forgotten. But you never do."
Peter's expression became one of concern, and he leaned forward slightly. "Carter, don't talk like that."
"Talk like what?" Carter asked in confusion. He ran his words back through his mind, and almost choked when he realized what Peter meant. "I was talking about cheeseburgers, Peter."
"Right," Peter replied, unconvinced.
"I was! I swear! I was talking about cheeseburgers."
Peter studied Carter's face for a moment before speaking again. "So, how are you doing with that?"
"Two years today," Carter beamed, reaching into his pocket. He rubbed the small gold coin fondly, and then laid it on the table.
Peter picked it up carefully and inspected it, flipping it over to read the inscriptions on the back. He smiled at the younger man as he handed it back to him. "I'm damn proud of you, Carter. You're doing it."
"Some days are harder than others, I have to admit," Carter said thoughtfully, turning the coin over in his fingers. "Today has been a bit rough. But I've been there, Peter. And I don't want to go back. I won't go back."
Peter glanced down at his watch again. It had been an hour since he'd dropped Carter off to get changed. He'd already gone back to the hotel and gotten Cleo, and there still was no sign of Carter.
"What do you think's taking him so long?" Cleo asked.
"I don't know," Peter answered. "He told me he'd be ready in fifteen minutes."
"Maybe Abby ended up getting off early after all?"
Peter shook his head. "No. Even if she had, it still wouldn't take them an hour to get ready."
"Well, what do you think we should do?"
Peter sighed, glancing up at the window to the apartment Carter shared with Abby. "I'm going to see if I can get him to buzz me up. Wait here. I'll be right back."
Peter climbed out of the car and walked toward the building, pushing open the iron gate and taking the front stairs two at a time. He started looking around for the intercom when he reached the door, but stopped when he saw someone walking toward him.
"Can I help you?" the old man asked through the glass in the door.
"Yeah, I've got a friend who lives here. John Carter?"
"John Carter? I don't think I... oh, wait, is he the boy that moved in with Abby? The doctor?"
Peter nodded. "Yeah. I'm waiting for him out here, and it's starting to get a bit cold. Any way I can go up?"
The man considered it for a moment, and then smiled. "Sure." He unlocked the door and let Peter through, closing it behind him. "You look like a nice enough sort. Top of the stairs, second door on your left."
"Thanks, man," Peter answered. "I really appreciate it."
Carter lifted his head and forced his eyes to open.
It had been an instant reaction, a remembrance of things he'd thought he'd forgotten, a feeling he'd sworn he'd never feel again: the warmth in his veins and skin as the heroin flooded through his blood, the false happiness, the rare lack of pain. His mind screamed at him to fight it, and to pay attention to what exactly was going on around him, but part of him just wanted to give up and give in, to relax into and relish the familiar sensations that had been missing from his life for so long.
He was slowly forgetting that there was a reason he didn't allow himself to do this any more. He was slowly forgetting about Peter waiting outside, about Abby, about himself, about everything that was important to him. Though he had never used heroin before, he was slowly sinking back into his addiction, the heroin replacing his constant craving for painkillers.
His body had been to hell and back since he'd first walked through the door to the apartment, though he couldn't remember exactly when that had been. He was bruised, battered, and broken in more ways than one. He still couldn't move, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd been able to. At least the heroin also had the comforting side effect of making his arm stop hurting.
It was his mind though, his tortured, unfocused, numbed mind, that was trying to pull him back to reality. It was his mind that focused on the picture of Abby hanging on the far wall of the living room, and on the sweetness of her smile. He had to survive this, if only to tell her how much he needed her.
He felt the confusion subsiding somewhat, and he concentrated harder. Peter... Peter was downstairs, somewhere, waiting for him. Peter didn't like to be kept waiting, and Carter had no clue how long he'd been here. He hoped and prayed that Peter's temper would get the better of him soon, and that his friend would break through the door to help him, to end this.
He closed his eyes again and focused on his breathing. He counted the breaths, in and out, and found that with each breath, it was easier to concentrate. He was remembering more about his situation, and about how he had ended up in it.
He opened his eyes again, only to find the other looming over him. Carter jerked involuntarily, trying once again to pull away, only to find that his arms and neck were as immobile as they had been before. He tried to push against the floor, but his legs wouldn't move. Tears of fear and frustration ran down his face as he realized he was still helpless.
The full syringe was in the other's hand again.
"It's time to end this now," the other said, pulling his other hand from his pocket. In his fingers, he held a razor blade.
Carter tried to scream, but no sound escaped the tape across his mouth. He shook his head violently. "No!" His mind cried the words that his voice couldn't. "Not like this... please... not like this!"
Carter felt the sting as the syringe sank deep into his vein, again felt the familiar warmth as the drug spread through his system. It vaguely occurred to him that it was more than before, that it hadn't completely cleared his system from the last time, that it was going to be too much for his body to handle.
His hands were suddenly free, as were his feet, chest and neck. Had he been able to move, now would have been the time to run. As it was, he could only shuffle his feet along as the other moved him from the kitchen to the bathroom. He couldn't fight when he felt the other lower him into the bathtub and turn the faucet on.
"Just relax, Carter," the other's strangely soothing voice told him. "This will all be over soon."
Carter jumped slightly when he felt the razorblade break the skin above his wrist. His mouth was still covered with tape, but it was unnecessary; Carter didn't have the energy to scream again. He let his head fall to the side and watched with morbid fascination as the blade cut across his wrist from right to left, blood immediately gushing from the gaping wound. "Not enough to kill me," he thought. "But I'm gonna leave one hell of a mess behind."
As the cloudiness descended around his mind again, he could think of only one name, only one face, only one person.
"Dear God, please don't let Abby find me."
The black SUV pulled to a stop in front of the small apartment building.
Peter turned the key off and looked out through the windshield. "Nice neighborhood, Carter."
Carter chuckled as he reached for the door handle. "Well, I haven't been able to convince her to move in with me at the mansion."
"Gee, I wonder why not," Peter replied. "Why wouldn't a woman want to move in with your grandmother?"
"Oh, I'm sure she will. Eventually. But for now..." Carter gestured toward the building, pointing out one window. "This is home. I won't be long, Peter. I'll just change real quick, and grab something for Abby to change into at the hospital. Shouldn't be more than ten, fifteen minutes."
"Okay," Peter replied, nodding. "But if you take more than that, I'll have to go get Cleo and come back. I told her I'd be there at four."
"Don't worry," Carter said, stepping out of the truck. "If it takes me longer than that, then I've got a serious problem anyway." He closed the door, and glanced back in through the window. "Be right back."
Carter walked up the steps to the building easily, his long legs taking the stairs two at a time. He pulled his key from his pocket and opened the door, smiling at the superintendent as he walked past him. "Good afternoon," Carter greeted him.
"Hey," the super said in passing. He snapped his fingers as he remembered something and turned to tell the young man, but he'd already disappeared up the stairs. The old man smiled and went back into his office. The young doctor would find out about his visitor soon enough anyway.
Carter juggled his keys a bit, looking for the right one. He located it easily, and reached out to put it in the lock, but found that his key was unnecessary.
The door swung open at his touch. Not only had it not been locked, it wasn't even closed. Carter glanced around the landing in confusion, looking to see if anyone had noticed anything amiss, but no one was there. He leaned forward to look back down the stairs, but the super seemed to have disappeared as well.
Carter listened intently, but heard nothing unusual: the old neighbor lady had her soaps on too loud again; the young mother downstairs had her stereo on while she vacuumed. With one more quick glance down the stairs in the direction of the front door, Carter stepped into his apartment.
"Hello?" he called out, walking forward and looking around. Nothing seemed to be out of place, and he breathed a sigh of relief, tossing his keys into the air.
They fell to the floor when the door slammed shut behind him.
The first thing Carter felt when he started to come around was pain; his left arm hurt like hell. He tried to lean forward to look at it, but was stopped almost instantly by a constriction around his neck. He gagged slightly at the sensation, and tried to move back to relieve the pressure on his windpipe, but that only resulted in a fresh wave of pain from his arm.
He tried to shift his position a few more times, still confused as to why he couldn't move freely. Finally, he resigned himself to slouching as much as he could against the chair, and opened his eyes.
He remembered what had happened to him.
He was tied to a chair, his chair, in his kitchen. He was sitting upright again, so at least he had that to be grateful for. All of his clothes were gone except his jeans; even his socks were gone. His arms were twisted up behind him at an uncomfortable position. His ankles were tied to the back legs of the chair. One rope circled his chest; another was wrapped around his neck. His arm hurt because his shoulder was dislocated.
As full memory returned, Carter groaned and leaned his head back against the top of the chair.
"Good morning," said the voice from behind him.
"You've lost it," Carter replied hoarsely. "I mean... I always thought you... had a screw loose, but you... you have completely lost it."
"I lost it a long time ago, Carter. I lost it a year and a half ago."
Carter opened his eyes and raised his head slightly, so that he could look his tormentor in the eye. "I didn't have... anything to do... with that."
He was rewarded with another blow, this one a backhand to the side of his face. "You had everything to do with it! If it hadn't been for you, she wouldn't have..." The other man's voice trailed off and his eyes glazed over. "You took everything away from me. You took it, and you kept it all for yourself. But I do have to admit, what I got from you is almost worth it. I finally figured out just what's so appealing about drugs."
"You're high," Carter breathed.
"Higher than I've ever been in my life," was the answer. "You know, I should have known better, being a doctor. I really should. But did you know there are people, scientists, who will pay you to do LSD? And it's really amazing, how clearly you can see when you're on a trip." The other man stepped forward, a menacing smile on his face. "I saw this. I saw every detail. I know exactly how this is going to end. I've got it all planned out."
"Any chance I can get you to change your mind?" Carter asked weakly.
The other man just shook his head. "You see over there?" he asked, pointing in the direction of the couch. Carter turned his head to look, and thought he saw his brown turtleneck sweater lying across the back of it. "That's the clothes you're going to be wearing when they find you." The other man started to circle the chair Carter was sitting in, talking quietly, almost rhythmically. "There won't be a mark on you that they'll see, at least not immediately. Well, your wrists of course, but don't worry about that. I'll hide those rope marks well. It's going to take them a very long time to figure out exactly what happened to you. And by the time they do, well, you'll be dead, so it won't matter much any more."
"What?" Carter's eyes widened in fear. "Hey, now, look... I think you've taken this far enough, all right? Just... just untie me. Or don't even. Just leave. Just leave me here, and I'll forget about it."
"Right," was the sarcastic answer, followed by a tightening of the rope around his throat.
Carter tried instinctively to fight against it, pulling his arms and legs as hard as he could. He could feel the ropes bite into his wrists and ankles painfully. The pressure subsided suddenly, and Carter gasped for air, his already tortured lungs desperately craving oxygen. Between tortured breaths, Carter again silently begged for Peter to come busting through the door.
"I know where we're going today, Carter. But that doesn't mean I can't take a few detours along the way."
Carter felt the chair tip over, and he struggled to keep it from falling. The feeling of the chair slamming against his dislocated shoulder made him scream in agony, and the other man leaned down quickly to push a piece of duct tape across his mouth. "Time to shut up now, Carter."
The other man lifted his foot and kicked Carter in the ribs. "See, I did decide that I should get some small amount of pleasure out of this afternoon." The man pulled his foot back and kicked him again. Carter tried to scream once more, but only managed a muffled groan. After one more kick to Carter's chest and ribs, the other man stopped, and walked to the kitchen table.
"But, I'm afraid that I wasn't able to fit much extra time in. So now, it's time to get on with it."
Tears of pain and terror rolled down Carter's cheeks as he watched the other man hold the syringe up in front of his face. He pushed on the plunger slightly, and tapped the end of the needle with his fingernail. "I hope you don't mind. I didn't have any fentanyl or morphine lying around, so heroin will have to do." He smiled down at his horrified and helpless victim. "This won't hurt a bit. But you already know that."
Carter renewed his struggles, pulling against the ropes until he felt blood running down his hands and feet. He thrashed about so much that he could feel the ropes around his chest and neck starting to burn. He shook his head violently in protest and screamed until his throat was raw. It was a futile attempt, and both the grinning man with the syringe and the terrified man on the floor knew it.
Carter felt the sting of the needle as it pierced his skin, and the spreading warmth as the drug found its way through his bloodstream. 'Where the hell is Peter?' Carter's mind screamed. The other man simply stood and smiled down at him.
All Carter could do was close his eyes and try not to cry.
Carter jumped when he heard the door slam, letting his keys clatter to the floor, forgotten. He spun around quickly, adrenaline pumping through his veins.
He relaxed a bit in recognition of what he saw, and opened his mouth to speak. "What the...?"
An animalistic cry erupted from behind the door, and strong arms wrapped themselves around his ribs, tackling him to the floor and knocking the air out of his lungs. Carter felt his head slam against the heavy wooden floor, and he cried out in pain. His attacker was sitting on his chest now, pummeling his face and ribs with crazed blows.
It took only a second for Carter to clear the fog from his mind and raise his arms to defend himself. The pain that was radiating from his back was excruciating, but he continued to fight, pulling down against the maniac's arms and lifting his right knee at the same time, the movement and his own momentum just enough to throw the attacker off balance and send him tumbling to the floor.
Carter rolled and pushed against the floor, struggling to get to his feet. He lunged for the door, but the pain was shooting down his legs now and they wouldn't move. With another cry from the crazed lunatic, Carter found himself pinned to the floor again, this time face down. More weight than he would have imagined the attacker possessed pressed down against his lower spine, and knees ground themselves painfully into his elbows.
Carter felt a hand grab his hair, and the psychotic man on top of him jerked his head up from the floor roughly. Before Carter could speak, he saw the glint of the sun reflecting from the blade of the knife, and felt it pressed against his throat. The fear that flooded over him was more debilitating than the pain in his back.
"Don't do that again."
Carter swallowed hard and nodded slightly, not wanting to risk any sudden movement.
"Now stay still. You know what this would feel like buried in your back, Carter. And if you move again, that's exactly where it'll be."
Carter nodded again, afraid to speak, afraid even to move too much. He closed his eyes and concentrated on controlling the fear. With the exception of the past few minutes, he'd never needed to be afraid of this man. Something had obviously changed. He thought about Peter, sitting in the car outside, and began to pray that he did actually come upstairs before he left to get Cleo.
His attacker shifted his position on his back, moving his knees from Carter's elbows to his wrists. He then reached down and grabbed either side of Carter's shirt, pulling against the buttons that held it closed until the thread holding them broke. The man moved his knee from Carter's right wrist and pulled it up behind him, pulling the shirt free. He knelt down on the right elbow again, and repeated the process with the left arm.
Carter glanced to his right, and saw the knife lying on the floor in front of him. His fear of the blade was replaced momentarily with fear of what was happening, and he started struggling again. "Get off of me!" he screamed, kicking his legs and pulling against his own arms. "Get the hell off of me!"
In a heartbeat, the knife was at his throat again, and the man on his back was breathing on his neck. "Don't worry, Carter. You're not my type."
Once more, the man moved his knee from Carter's right arm, then reached down and grabbed his wrist, twisting it up behind him. Carter cried out again.
"I swear, Carter, if you don't shut up..."
"What?" Carter asked, his voice more defiant than he felt.
"I'll shut you up," was the simple answer.
Carter was trying to ignore the burning pain in his right shoulder when he felt the rope begin to wrap around his wrist. "No," he pleaded, trying to pull his arm free. The only reply was another shift in weight on his back, and his left arm being pulled up behind him in the same manner. "No, please..."
The dark-haired man stood and pulled Carter to his feet, using the rope as leverage. Carter leaned back slightly to relieve as much pressure on his shoulders as he could, and felt the knife pressed against his exposed throat again. The man dragged him back, away from the door, toward the kitchen.
"Take a seat, Carter," the man said calmly, spinning one of the chairs around and pushing Carter into it. His arms ended up behind the chair, and Carter felt the wood pressing against his tortured shoulders painfully.
"Are you..." Carter gasped, the pain and fear starting to overwhelm him. "Are you going to tell me?"
"Tell you what?" the other man asked. He wrapped a loose end of the rope around Carter's bare chest and tied it tightly.
"Tell me... what I did?" Carter was amazed at how difficult he was finding it to breathe, but he was determined not to show this person just how much pain he was in.
In response, Carter felt the rope again, this time around his throat. Carter panicked and tried to pull away, but the other man simply pulled back on the rope, cutting his air supply off completely. Carter kicked his legs wildly as his already constricted lungs screamed for oxygen.
"You stole my life," the man answered calmly. "You took everything I was, everything I loved, and you took it away from me. All because of... her. You just had to bring... her... into it, didn't you?"
As suddenly as it had begun, the pressure on his neck disappeared and Carter leaned forward as much as he could, coughing and gasping to fill his starving lungs.
"You're... insane!" Carter rasped.
The other man rolled his eyes and turned away. Carter leaned his head back against the chair and closed his own eyes. He never saw the other man spin around, fire shooting from his eyes, to swing the handle of the knife toward him.
The chair tipped from the force of the blow, landing with an audible pop against Carter's left shoulder. Carter screamed in renewed pain, closing his eyes against it, knowing instantly that his shoulder had been dislocated from the impact. "Peter... help me," he whispered.
"You just don't get it, Carter. You can't even imagine what it's like to lose everything." The man kicked him in the ribs hard, and smiled when Carter did no more than moan in response. "But you will."
The pain, the fear, and the lack of oxygen proved too much for Carter, and he saw spots dancing at the edges of his vision. As he succumbed to the welcoming darkness, two words escaped his lips.
Peter barged through the doors to Trauma One, blocking Luka's intended path of exit. "What the hell are you doing?" Peter demanded, stalking forward. "Get your ass back in there and help him!"
Luka snorted. "Why? He doesn't need that kind of help."
Peter snarled and lashed out with his fist, catching Luka right above the left eye and knocking him to the floor. Cleo ran in grabbed him from behind, keeping him from following Luka to the floor to finish what he'd started.
"Get up!" Peter growled, pulling against Cleo's arms. "Get up, damn you!"
Luka wiped the small trickle of blood from his lip with the back of his hand and stood slowly, holding his hands out in front of him. "You're not understanding me, Peter. What she's doing in there...she's risking his recovery. I can't be part of that."
"What?" Peter demanded.
"You have to be careful with Narcan when you’re dealing with an addict. If you give too much, you risk sending him back into withdrawal again." Luka sighed and leaned forward slightly. "You've seen him go through it once, Peter. Do you really want to watch him go through it again?"
Peter glanced into Trauma Two through the window. He saw Susan Lewis burst into the room, and saw Chuny inject a syringe into the IV bag that hung above Carter's head. He tried to pull away from Cleo, but she held tight. He sighed, and turned down to face her. "I'm done, Cleo. You can let go now." Peter patted her hands lovingly as she unwound them from his chest, and followed when Luka motioned him over to the window.
"His airway is preserved. As long as she keeps him on the vent, he's going to come out of it."
Peter shook his head. "No...no, he needs the Narcan to wake up."
"He doesn't need that much, Peter," Luka said softly. "A small amount given every 60 seconds would be safer for him than a large dose every two minutes. He's going to pull through, one way or the other. I was just thinking about his comfort and safety here. Imagine how he'll feel, waking up on a vent and in restraints."
Peter sighed and lowered his head. "Damn...you're right. I hadn't even thought about that." Peter glanced up at Luka and said softly, "I'm sorry...about...that."
Luka shook his head. "It's understandable." He followed Peter's gaze back through the window, watching as Susan started to remove the bandages Peter had applied to Carter's right wrist to inspect the wounds. "He was depressed all day?"
Peter shook his head. "No. That's why I don't understand this. He's not been depressed at all."
Luka nodded in understanding. "Sudden and shocking. Suicide attempts often are."
The doctors and nurses attending to Carter started moving rapidly when Chuny began to remove his clothing. Peter saw Susan lift Carter's arm, but she blocked his view of the discovery she was sharing. Kerry pulled the bandage from his left wrist quickly, and then started probing his arm with her fingers. The two men watched in silence until Chuny stepped back from Carter, her hand flying to her mouth.
"What's going on?" Luka asked.
"I don't know. But I've got a terrible feeling that..." Peter began, pushing the door open hurriedly. Both men jumped when they heard Kerry's soft voice.
"Someone did this to him."
"Dr. Weaver, look!" Chuny called out in surprise as she began cutting open Carter's sweater.
Kerry looked up and gaped at what she saw. Carter's chest was a mess of dark purple bruises, and a deep red line that Kerry couldn’t identify immediately. "What on earth...?" she began.
"It’s a rope burn," Susan interrupted. She looked up from where she had been unwrapping the crude bandages on Carter’s right wrist, and held his arm up to show Kerry what she had found. "He’s got one here too."
Kerry moved quickly to pull the bandages from his left wrist as well, and found the same thing. Not just rope burn, but a deep gash, as if he'd been pulling against them. She moved further up his arm, continuing her inspection. She moved her hands gingerly, not knowing what she would find. "His shoulder’s dislocated," she said quietly. "Haleh, call X-ray."
Susan had moved to the top of the gurney, and began checking Carter's head, pushing his hair aside. "Look, Kerry. There's a huge bump here on the back of his head. And there's dried blood in his hair."
Kerry moved to stand beside her, finding another laceration above his ear almost immediately. "How the hell did I miss this?"
"You weren't looking for it," Susan answered. "Suicides don't generally bash themselves over the head."
Kerry leaned down to inspect Carter’s face more closely, and saw the faint bruises on his jaw and circling his eyes. The clots were deep, just barely showing through the skin. She looked down at his chest again, at the ugly mass of bruises that covered it. "They usually don’t beat the hell out of themselves like this either," she whispered.
Chuny had finished cutting Carter's sweater and was carefully removing the material from around his neck when she gasped and covered her mouth.
"Chuny, what?" Susan asked in alarm.
Fearful that she knew the answer, Kerry picked up the cloth Chuny had dropped and finished pulling it away from Carter's throat, exposing the angry scarlet line that it had previously covered.
"My God," Susan whispered, fighting her impulse to turn away.
"Chuny, call the police." Kerry looked up at Susan across the gurney, watching the blood drain from the woman's face as she spoke. "This isn't a suicide; it’s an attempted murder." Kerry swallowed and looked back down at Carter's still face. "Someone did this to him."
Peter and Luka froze in the door, and the look on Cleo's face was one of pure horror. Kerry and Susan still stared at each other across the gurney. Haleh stood motionless by the phone, staring at the still body on the gurney. Chuny stood as if rooted to the floor, her hand holding back the sobs that choked her. The whole room was silent, with the exception of the machines beeping as they counted Carter's heartbeats, and the whoosh of the air forcing its way into his lungs.
Peter broke the stillness first, making his way to Carter's side with only two steps. He pushed Susan out of his way roughly as he grabbed for Carter's wrist, lifting it to get a better view of what Susan had seen moments before. "No," he mumbled to himself, checking Carter's chest, counting the bruises, registering the red burn across his chest. "No, this is impossible." He stopped short when he saw the crimson line that circled Carter's throat, and he reached out slowly with his fingers to touch it. "This is impossible. I was downstairs. I was right outside!"
"Peter..." Kerry began, her voice soft as she struggled to regain her composure.
"I would have seen something, or heard something. Damn it, Carter, I was right outside!"
Cleo rushed forward quickly, grateful that Luka had the same thought. Together, they managed to pull Peter away from the gurney.
Susan and Kerry both swallowed hard and returned to their examination. "We need to reduce that shoulder," Susan said, her voice eerily calm now.
"We’re getting close to five minutes on the Narcan, " Kerry pointed out. "Let’s be careful. We don’t want to risk him waking up in the middle of a reduction... "
"I should have heard something," Peter mumbled as Luka and Cleo guided him back into Trauma One. "I should have seen something, someone...I was right there. Carter, I was right there. I was right..." Peter's voice trailed off and his eyes clouded over. "I left him."
"Oh, Peter, no..." Cleo took his hand in hers and looked down at his fingers.
"I did, Cleo. I left. I left him there. This was happening to him right next to me, and I left him there alone."
"Peter, you didn't know," Cleo soothed, wrapping her arms around him again. "You couldn't have known."
Peter shook his head. "I should have known. I sat there for half an hour before I left. Half an hour, and he was going through this, and I was right THERE...and I left him! And all I did was get mad at him for making me wait!"
"Peter, you saved his life," Luka pointed out softly.
Peter shook his head again and backed away from Cleo. "I shouldn't have had to," he said forcefully. "I should have been there from the very beginning. I should have been there to take care of him." Peter looked around, glancing once more at Carter's still form through the window. Anger and hatred, fear and frustration flooded through him, and Peter slammed his fist into his hand. "But I will take care of him now."
He turned on his heel and stormed from the room.
"Peter!" Luka and Cleo called after him.
Before either of them could make a move to follow him, Susan burst through the door from Trauma Two.
"Luka! Where's Abby?"
Chapter-specific warning: Another character discovers the scene of the staged suicide in this chapter. It is described in detail again.
Abby stopped at the bottom of the stairs to the apartment building and looked up, the screeching of car tires on the street echoing in her ears. She couldn't explain why she felt so nervous. She had gotten so apprehensive at work that she had even convinced Kerry to let her leave half an hour early. Now she was standing in front of her own home, the one place she should feel most comfortable, and she felt an almost overwhelming desire to turn and run.
She climbed the stairs to the front door quickly, fumbling with her keys as she made her way up. She opened the door with inexplicably shaking hands, and hurried into the lobby. The feeling of dread was growing more powerful, and she glanced around frantically. She froze when she saw the superintendent, walking toward her with his hands open and his eyes full of concern. "Abby? Abby, is everything all right? Is John okay?"
Abby bit her bottom lip and looked straight into the man's eyes. John... something had happened to John.
Without a word, she bolted up the stairs to their apartment, not stopping when the old man called out her name. The door to the apartment was standing open. She ignored the possible dangers to her own safety and ran inside. "John!" she cried out in fear, her eyes darting around the familiar room. "John, where are you? John!"
She turned to check their bedroom, her heart pounding. As she rushed past the bathroom door, something caught her attention, and she stopped. Had she really just seen...?
Slowly, Abby walked back to the bathroom. She closed her eyes as she turned to face the empty room, and opened them slowly. "Oh God," she breathed when she saw the scene before her.
There was blood everywhere.
Abby swallowed hard and took a step forward, her mind reeling with what she saw. She felt suddenly nauseous and leaned against the sink for support. She heard something clatter into the basin, and reached down to retrieve it.
The world seemed to be moving in slow motion for Abby, as she lifted the empty syringe from the sink. She cradled it in her hands, afraid of breaking it, afraid of what it meant. A reflection on the floor caught her eye, and Abby found herself staring down at a razorblade lying on the tiled floor in front of the bathtub.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she shook her head, her jaw quivering. "No," she whispered to the empty apartment. Abby's mind exploded, and her world shattered, raining down around her in tiny shards. The blood-curdling scream that ripped itself from her throat was one of desperation, horror, and pain. "NO!"
The syringe fell from her hands and clattered to the floor, rolling to a stop beside the discarded blade.
Abby backed from the room slowly, fighting the dizziness that threatened to knock her to the ground. She backed into something and turned, a fearful scream pulling itself from her lips. She felt strong arms wrap around her, and she curled into them, pounding her balled fist against the chest she found herself clinging to.
"Abby?" The man's voice was dripping with concern and confusion. "Abby, what happened?"
Abby shook her head. "I don't know," she answered, turning her face up to the man who held her. "Where is he, Dave? Where's John?"
The black SUV swerved recklessly through traffic, speeding down residential streets and weaving its way around the other cars. Peter laid on the horn again as someone pulled in front of him to turn, and sped through the intersection. His mind was swimming with the events of the past hour.
He should have known that something was wrong. He should have known that Carter was in trouble. He'd had a feeling that something was amiss, when Carter had taken so long to come back out... but he'd ignored it. He'd chalked it up to an overreaction, and he'd left. He'd waited longer than he'd said he would, but in the end, he'd left anyway. And he'd abandoned Carter to the hell he'd endured in his own home.
He should have seen the rope burns on Carter's wrists. No amount of blood should have kept him from noticing them immediately. He should have known they were there. He should have been able to tell from the moment he laid eyes on him that it was no suicide.
Someone had tried to kill Carter.
Someone had tried to kill his best friend.
And he'd let them do it. He'd ignored his gut and driven away, and damn him... he'd let them hurt Carter.
Peter didn’t know what he was planning to do. He knew that the odds of actually finding the person who had tried to kill Carter were almost non-existent, but he still felt he had to try. He wouldn’t be able to rest until he knew that the person who had tried to end his best friend’s life had been found.
What would he do if he found the guy? Peter honestly didn’t know. He liked to imagine that he’d restrain him and call the police, but he was realistic enough to realize he’d probably beat the hell out of him first. In fact, Peter was honest enough to admit that it would be damn hard not to kill the guy out-right.
Memories flooded through his mind, and his anger enveloped him. Carter... lying in the bathtub, his hair and clothes soaked from the shower that rained down over him. Blood... smeared on the walls, pooled in the tub, splattered on the tile. The way Carter’s arm had hung so limply over the side, the way the blood had been dripping from his fingers, the way his head had hung to the side. He’d been so pale, so still, so lifeless... Peter had thought he was already dead. His heart jumped into his throat as he remembered it, and he wondered if he would ever be able to close his eyes without seeing it in his mind.
His mind shifted to the hospital, to the marks he had seen on Carter’s body there. The rope burns on his wrists that Peter should have seen to begin with, the bruises that littered his chest and face, the mark the rope had left across his chest. Then there was that other rope mark...he almost closed his eyes as he thought of the deep red line across Carter’s throat. He remembered reaching out to touch it, and wished he hadn’t. The mark that the rope had left was deep; blood had been oozing from it and had dried around the edges. Peter shivered involuntarily when he thought of just what had to have happened to leave a mark that deep.
How had Carter survived at all?
Peter heard a phone ringing, and it jarred him from his memories. It took him a second to realize where the ringing was coming from, and a second more to figure out how. He had left his phone on Carter’s floor, but Cleo had left hers in the car.
He reached into the center console and pulled the phone out, holding it against his ear quickly. "Yeah?" he answered.
"Peter." The voice on the other end was Cleo’s, and Peter wasn’t surprised. "Peter, where are you?"
Peter looked around him, realizing for the first time that he had been driving in the general direction of Carter’s apartment. "I’m...about six blocks from the hospital. Why? Is Carter all right? Is he awake yet?"
"No. No, he’s not conscious yet, but he’s stable." Cleo stopped, and Peter knew there was more that she wasn’t telling him.
"What?" he demanded. "What is it?"
"They found more... after you left. Rope marks on his ankles. And his shoulder..."
Peter felt a new wave of anger welling in the pit of his stomach, and he pushed it down. "What about his shoulder?"
"It was dislocated. They had to reduce it without any anesthesia. But he didn’t wake up, and his X-rays look good." Peter nodded silently, and Cleo continued hesitantly. "Peter... look, Peter, I hate to ask this... but can you go back to the apartment?"
"Why?" Peter asked, not bothering to mention that he appeared to be headed in that direction anyway.
"We can’t find Abby. She left here about an hour ago, and no one knows where she is. We’re worried that she might be in trouble, or that she might walk into the apartment and find..."
Peter nodded again. "I’ll find her," he answered.
"Peter," Cleo said softly. "Peter, I love you."
"I love you too. I’ll be back soon." Peter turned the phone off and tossed it to the floor.
The police cars were swarmed together in front of the small apartment building when Peter pulled up. He parked across the street and walked, pushing his way past the officer that tried to stop him.
"Hey! You can't go up there!"
"I'm looking for someone," Peter answered, pulling his arm free roughly.
"Stop!" the policeman yelled, following Peter and grabbing his arms again. "I said you can't go up there!"
Peter backed away, pulling his arms free once more. "And I said I'm looking for someone!"
Both men turned and saw her; the petite woman with dark blonde hair and large brown eyes was sitting on the front steps to the building. She stood shakily, reaching her arms out to Peter. The man that had been sitting beside her stood as well, helping her to stay on her feet.
"Oh, Peter..." she said again, her voice filled with tears.
Peter looked back at the officer and raised his eyebrows, and the officer nodded, motioning for Peter to go ahead.
He ran to her, wrapping his arms around her as she fell against him. She buried her face in his chest as the sobs overtook her, and Peter felt the front of his shirt grow wet immediately. "Peter..." she sobbed, grasping his shirt. "Oh, Peter... John..."
"I know," Peter whispered into her hair. "I know." Peter looked up at the man standing behind Abby. "Dave," he acknowledged. "What are you doing here?"
"I was just stopping by, see if Carter wanted to catch a college game on TV or something. The super let me in, and I found Abby upstairs..."
"There's so much blood, Peter. So much... and the needle up there... and the razor... razorblade..."
"Shhh," Peter soothed, running his hand down Abby's hair and tightening his hold on her. "I know, Abby, I know."
"How could he do this, Peter? Why would he do this? Why didn’t he tell me he was having problems?"
"Abby," Peter said softly, taking her face in his hands and forcing her too look at him. "Abby, you need to know. Carter did NOT do this to himself."
"What?" Abby and Dave asked in unison.
"What do you mean? Peter, what do you mean!"
"Look, Abby, I know how it looks up there. But you have to believe me. Carter did not do this."
"How do you know?" Dave asked, looking at Peter suspiciously. "You just got here..."
"I found him," Peter answered softly.
"Wait... wait..." Dave stuttered. "You found him? You found him when?"
"Peter, you found him?" Abby asked quickly. "Where is he? Where is he?"
"He's at the hospital, Abby. He's alive. Kerry and Susan are taking care of him."
"Take me to him!" Abby demanded. "I want to see him now!"
"Okay," Peter answered, wrapping his left arm around Abby's shoulders and leading her to his car.
"Peter, is he awake? Is he conscious yet?" Dave began from behind them, his voice apprehensive.
Peter shook his head. "No, not yet. But they’re giving him Narcan, so he might be by the time we get back."
Abby climbed into the car when Peter opened the door for her, and Dave climbed into the back. "Hurry, Peter!" Abby urged. "Please hurry!"
"Yes, Peter," Dave echoed quietly, as the car pulled away from the curb and sped back into traffic. "Please hurry..."
Something was beeping, far away.
The steady sound gave him something to focus on, and helped him to push the fog from his mind. His shoulder didn't hurt any more. His arms and legs were no longer bent at odd angles. He seemed to be lying down, but he could feel from the warmth at his back that he wasn't in the tub any more. He was dry; someone must have turned the water off.
But something still wasn't right. He tried to breathe, but something was stopping him. Something was in his throat. He tried to lift his right hand to push whatever it was away, but he couldn't move his arm far enough. He tried to lift his left arm then, only to find that he couldn't move it at all. He repeated the process again with his legs, but discovered that he couldn't move them either.
He was tied down again.
Carter's eyes shot open in panic as he started pulling at the restraints that held him down on the gurney. He tried to call out, but the tube in his throat wouldn't let the sounds escape. He felt his heart pounding in his chest as his distress grew. He knew there was someone else in the room, but he couldn't turn his head far enough to find them, and that only served to reinforce his struggles.
"Carter!" he heard a familiar voice cry beside him. "Carter, stop! Calm down!"
Susan looked down at him, at the brown eyes that stared back up with her, wide with fear. She tried her best to smile at him, and placed her hand against his cheek. "You're all right, Carter. You're safe now." She saw him pulling against the restraints again, and moved her hand down to his arm. "I'm sorry about the restraints. We were worried about you. We gave you Narcan, to reverse the heroin."
At the mention of the drug, Carter's eyes filled with horror. He shook his head as vigorously as he could, and Susan leaned forward. "Carter, it's all right. We know. We know it wasn't you."
Carter seemed to relax a bit, but after a few seconds, he was pulling at the restraints again. "I can't, Carter. I'm sorry," Susan replied. "They're only there to keep you safe. And you ARE safe. You don't have to be afraid here." Carter pulled his arm again, more insistent this time, motioning in the direction of the tube. "No, that has to stay too. At least for a while. You need the oxygen. And with everything else..." Susan let her voice trail off when she noticed the darkness that filled his eyes. "No, Carter, don't..."
He pulled against the restraints again, harder than before. He shook his head and tried to lift it from the pillow, wanting nothing more than to remove the tube from his throat so that he could breathe, so that he could talk, so that he could tell them about Dave. He wanted to be able to move his arms and legs again, to be free again, to feel safe and not just be told he was.
"Oh, Carter, no..." Susan pleaded, leaning across him, trying her best to hold him down without re-injuring his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Carter. Haleh!" The nurse ran through the door almost immediately, and Susan turned to her. "Two of Versed. Now."
Haleh quickly drew the liquid into the syringe, stepping to the side of the gurney to tap the air from the needle. Carter froze when he saw her do it, his mind flashing images of another face, another person he trusted, doing the same thing. He began to thrash about wildly, Susan's continued effort to hold him still beginning to fail.
"Hurry, Haleh," Susan urged. "I can't hold him..."
Haleh looked down at Carter's face, at his pleading terrified eyes, and smiled softly. Before she gave him the injection, she laid her hand against his cheek. "I'm not gonna hurt you, baby. I'm not doing this to hurt you."
Haleh looked up at Susan, who nodded, and pressed the syringe against Carter's arm.
Carter felt the sting as the needle punctured his skin, and he tried to pull away. The combination of the restraints and Susan's hands held him fast, and all he could do was close his eyes as a single tear rolled down his cheek.
Haleh wiped the tear away gently, and Carter opened his eyes again to look at her. "No one's gonna hurt you here, baby. I promise you that."
Abby jumped out of the SUV before Peter had even pulled to a complete stop. She ran down the sidewalk and into the ambulance bay as fast as her legs would go. She burst through the doors and into the ER, completely breathless. "Randi!" she called, rushing to the admit desk. "Randi, where is he?"
"Trauma Two," Randi answered. "But Dr. Weaver wants you to talk to her before you go in there!" The second statement was shouted down the hallway, as Abby dashed toward the trauma room. "Abby! Abby, wait!"
Abby didn't stop until she'd reached the doors to the darkened trauma room. She walked toward them slowly, looking through them at the scene before her. She saw Haleh standing by the gurney, chart in hand, taking notes on his vital signs. Abby's eyes roamed across the various machines: the ventilator, the heart monitor, the blood pressure monitor, the pulse ox machine. She followed the cables to their end, raising her hand and pressing her fingertips against the glass.
Taking a deep breath, she swallowed the lump in her throat, and pushed the door open slowly. She kept her pace slow and steady, almost forcing her feet to move forward. She still hadn't seen his face, and somewhere in her mind she thought that as long as she didn't, she could pretend it wasn't real.
"Abby?" Haleh asked softly, hanging the chart on the rail of the gurney and walking toward her. "Abby, honey, are you all right?"
Abby bit her lip and nodded her head silently, reaching out her hand as she neared his side. She touched his leg first, brushing her fingers against his thigh lightly. Slowly, gently, she grasped his hand, wrapping her fingers around his. Shaking now, she used her other hand to push his hair away from his face lovingly before allowing herself to lean down and lay her forehead against his.
"You can talk to him, honey," Haleh reminded her from the door. "He can hear you, and it will do him good to hear your voice."
Abby closed her eyes against the tears that were running from them. "Thank you, Haleh," she answered softly.
"I'll be right outside if you need me." Haleh walked out the door.
Abby released her grasp on Carter's hand and slowly moved her own hand up until she cupped his face. Gently, trying to force herself to stop shaking, she pressed her lips against his forehead and kissed him. "I thought I'd lost you, John..." she whispered, her voice breaking. "I love you so much... I can't... I don't ever want to feel like that again..." She stopped, biting her lip again, ignoring the tears that fell from her eyes and onto his face. "You promised me you wouldn't go away. Please... please, don't ever go away, John. I don't think... I know... I can't live without you..."
Kerry stopped outside the doors before she entered the darkened room, exchanging a few words with Haleh and watching Abby through the glass. She nodded her head a few times in acknowledgment of the nurse's words, then slowly pushed the doors open and entered.
"Abby?" she said quietly, not wanting to startle her.
Abby lifted her head from the silent prayer she'd been offering, and wiped a tear away from her cheek. "He looks like he's sleeping," Abby said.
"He is sleeping," Kerry replied, walking to the other side of the gurney, keeping her eyes on Abby and resisting the urge to look at Carter's still face again. "The Narcan worked. The initial danger has passed. He's just sedated now."
"If he's out of danger, then why is he still on the vent?"
"It's just a precaution, Abby. You should probably know... he never stopped breathing on his own. Peter made sure of that."
"Yeah," Abby replied, running her fingers up and down Carter's arm absently. "Peter saved him. He's a good friend to him."
"He is," Kerry agreed. She took a few moments to compose herself, trying to think of the best way to continue. "Abby, the reason I'm here... Peter told you that this wasn't a suicide, didn't he?"
Abby nodded quickly, brushing another tear away.
"The police will be here soon, and they'll want to talk to you. I think it's probably best if, when they do arrive, you talk to them in the lounge rather than in here."
Abby cocked her head to the side slightly, a puzzled look on her face. "Why's his throat bandaged?" she asked suddenly, reaching out to touch the edge of the white gauze that circled John's neck. "A heroin overdose and slit wrists. That's what Peter said."
Kerry opened her mouth to answer, but closed it again quickly. What should she tell her? As a nurse, she would understand the implications, but as a woman? More specifically, as the woman who loved the man on the gurney between them? "Abby, there's more than you know..."
"Then tell me," she returned calmly.
"I don't think that would be such a good idea."
"Why not? If this were any other patient, you'd tell me."
Kerry nodded in agreement. "You're right; I would. But this isn't any other patient, Abby. This is John. You're not a nurse right now; you're the woman who loves him. And there are certain things that... well, to be honest, I don't know that it would do you any good to know right now."
"If it's going to affect him, Kerry, in any way at all... I need to know."
"And you will. But not right now. Right now, just be here with him."
Abby shook her head. "All those times, Kerry... all those times I said, 'He can hear you,' or 'He knows you're here.' I'm sitting here now, and I realize... I don't know that. I don't know that he even knows I'm here."
Kerry smiled softly. "He knows. Don't you ever doubt that he knows."
The door opened again and Kerry looked up. "Peter," she said in greeting to the man who had just entered. "Dave..."
"Kerry," Dave returned, his voice clipped.
"Kerry, the police are here," Peter reported. "Abby?" He stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on her arm. "Abby, they want to talk to you."
"Right now?" she asked him, grasping John's hand in her own once more. "No, I can't. I can't leave him. What if he wakes up? I have to be here when he wakes up."
"I'll stay," Dave volunteered. "If anything changes, I'll come get you. I swear."
"Abby?" Kerry prompted.
"Abby, come on," Peter said, helping her to stand from the stool she'd been sitting on. "The sooner you talk to them, the sooner you can be back."
Abby nodded quickly and turned to leave. Suddenly, she pulled away from Peter and leaned back down, kissing John's forehead again. "I'll be back," she vowed. "I'll be here when you wake up."
Dave watched them leave the room, and walked to Carter's bedside. He leaned down until his lips were right next to Carter's ear. "I'll be here when you wake up," he hissed. "And I'll take real good care of you."
Abby sat on the couch in the lounge, with Kerry right beside her. Peter sat on the arm of the couch right next to her, with his arm around her shoulders for support. Peter and Kerry exchanged worried glances over Abby's back as the detective in the chair began speaking.
"I'm Detective Paul Marcus. First, of course, I'd like to thank you all..."
"Just get it over with," Peter snapped. "We've got things to do."
Marcus nodded and leaned forward. "All right then. Mr. Benton..."
"Dr. Benton," Peter interrupted.
"Sorry, Dr. Benton, you found the victim?"
"Yes, I did," Peter answered shortly.
"And how is it that you happened to do that?"
"I didn't happen to do anything," Peter replied, his voice growing tight. "I was waiting for him, and when he didn't come back I went to find out why."
"And your initial response was to break the door down?"
"Only after the neighbor told me that there had been someone else in the apartment, and that she'd thought she'd heard Carter screaming."
"So you were worried about him then?"
"Of course I was."
"You say it was the mention of this other person in the apartment that made you suspicious?"
"Partly," Peter answered, feeling Abby's shoulders shaking under his hands. "Look, does she have to be here for this?"
"It's all right, Peter," Abby said softly, wiping her tears away again. "I need to hear this."
"Mister....Dr. Benton, if it was mention of a second person that made you break the door down, why then did you bring the victim..."
"His name's John," Abby interrupted tearfully. "Call him John. Call him Carter. Just stop calling him "the victim" like he's some... some... random person!"
Kerry reached out and took Abby's hand in hers, offering her as much strength as she could.
Marcus sighed and continued. "Why did you bring Mr. Carter..."
"Dr. Carter." It was Kerry's turn to correct the detective.
"All right, why did you bring Dr. Carter to the ER and initially call him a suicide attempt?"
"Because that's what it looked like to me, at that point in time."
"You knew someone else had been in the apartment, you knew the neighbor said she had heard screaming, you knew that you were worried because of these things...and you thought he'd tried to kill himself?"
"When I found him, that's what it looked like," Peter repeated through clenched teeth.
"And just where did you find him?"
Peter didn't answer right away. Instead, he looked down at Abby, and at the tears rolling down her face. He squeezed her shoulder tightly, wishing she were anywhere else right then.
"Dr. Benton? Where did you find Dr. Carter?"
"In the bathtub," he said finally.
"In the bathtub in the apartment?"
"And what was the vic...Dr. Carter's state of dress at the time?"
Peter shook his head, amazed at the questions this man was thinking to ask. "He was fully dressed."
Peter's jaw dropped, and when he glanced at Kerry he saw much the same expression on her face. "I don't remember! I wasn't exactly paying attention to what he was wearing."
"What were you paying attention to?"
"To the blood that was running down his arms!" Peter snapped, and immediately regretted it. Abby pulled away from him and stood, walking across the room to John's locker. She leaned her back against it and let her head fall back, closing her eyes. "Damn it... I'm sorry, Abby..."
Abby shook her head slightly. "I'm fine," she said softly. "I just needed to move, that's all."
Marcus nodded his head, and turned back to Peter again. "So you were looking at his arms then? At his wrists?"
'Oh, here it comes,' Peter thought, but said only, "Yes."
"How is it then that you managed to miss the very distinctive rope marks?"
Abby shot up straight from John's locker. "The what?" she asked, looking to Kerry and then to Peter for an answer. "The rope marks? What rope marks?"
"Abby," Kerry began, standing and walking toward her. "You knew that he didn't try to kill himself. You knew that someone did this to him."
"Well, yeah, but..."
Kerry reached out and placed her hand on Abby's arm softly. "I told you there was more than you knew..."
"But rope marks?" Abby exploded at Kerry, yanking her arm away. "So... what, they tied him up? Why wouldn't you tell me that? And you were only talking about his neck. You didn't say anything about..." Abby froze. "No... oh no..." She went white as she realized why Kerry had been reluctant to explain the bandages around John's throat. "Oh my God."
Abby's knees buckled under her, and Peter jumped up from the couch, barely catching her before she crumpled to the floor. "Abby? Abby!"
"Is she okay?" Marcus asked, standing and turning to face them.
"She'll be fine," Kerry answered. "But we'll have to finish this later. Peter, put her on the couch. Put her feet up."
"No," Abby protested, shaking her head and grabbing onto Peter's shirt. "No, I'm all right. I'm just... I just need a minute. I'll be fine."
"I really think you should lie down, Abby..." Kerry was interrupted by Haleh bursting through the door.
"Dr. Weaver, we need you. Now!"
She was with him.
He felt her lips against his face; he heard her voice right beside him, speaking so softly. "I'll be back. I'll be here when you wake up."
'No, Abby, don't go yet,' he begged with his mind, trying to force himself to move. 'I'm awake. I'm awake!' He wasn't awake enough, however, and his muscles would not respond. He heard her footsteps as she walked out the door, and let himself start to slip back into the darkness.
He felt breath on his neck, and his heart jumped into his throat. Had she heard him and come back? But no, it didn't feel like her. It was someone else. It was...
"I'll be here when you wake up. And I'll take real good care of you."
Fear and desperation engulfed him again when he heard that voice. This man he had called his friend for so many years, this man who had tried to kill him, this man who was standing beside him now. Carter fought to move, the sedative's effects still lingering in his muscles. If there was someone else in the room, maybe he could tell them, make them understand. Haleh had said no one would hurt him here. He prayed that she was still around to keep her promise.
"This would have been so much easier if you'd just stayed where you were," the voice continued. "Now, you're here, and this is going to have to get messy."
Carter concentrated as hard as he could, and was relieved when he felt his finger move. His body was starting to respond. He had a chance now, if he could just get Haleh's attention... He opened his eyes slowly and looked around, and felt all the air rush out of him when he realized that he was alone with him again.
"Hey, Carter," Dave hissed. "I'm glad you decided to wake up for this. I would have hated to do it when you were totally helpless." Dave tugged roughly on the restraint around Carter's right wrist and laughed. "Oh, wait, you are totally helpless. Man, that has got to suck."
Carter fought against his sluggish muscles, once again cursing the tube down his throat that kept him from calling out for help. Where was everyone? Why had they all left? Why had they left him alone with Dave? Didn't someone know that it was Dave who had done this to him?
"On the plus side," Dave continued, his hands moving rapidly below Carter's line of sight, "we've got access to your beloved fentanyl again."
Carter shook his head weakly, his eyes pleading with Dave to just leave him alone. He'd meant it earlier when he'd said he'd forget about everything if Dave would just leave, and he would have meant it then, had he been able to say it. He just wanted to be left alone. He was already feeling the beginnings of what would be a hard withdrawal from the heroin Dave had given him. He knew how hard it would be for him to regain control over his recovery at that point. If he had fentanyl again, he didn't think he'd be able to resist it.
"Nah," Dave said dismissively, shaking his head. "No, I think we've had our fill of opiates today, don't you Carter? So let's try something else then. Why don't we try a nice vasoconstrictor this time then? How about..." Dave held the syringe up just high enough for Carter to catch a glimpse of the needle, but not far enough to be seen through any of the windows. "...a couple amps of epi? How many should we go for, Carter? Two? Three?"
Carter jerked his head to the side as hard as he could, trying to dislodge the ET tube once more. How long had everyone been gone? Minutes? An hour? How long would it be before someone came back? He had to get the tube out so he could talk to them, yell for them. Where was Haleh? Where was Abby? Where was Peter?
"I think three ought to be enough," Dave continued, ignoring Carter's struggles. "After all, we wouldn't want to overkill, now would we?" Dave chuckled to himself at his wit. "Oh, I kill me. No, wait... I kill you."
Carter's arms and legs started responding to his commands finally, and he pulled against the restraints. If he could make enough noise, maybe he could get someone to notice. Maybe he could get someone, anyone, to walk through that door and make Dave go away.
"Oh, that Versed is finally wearing off I see. Guess I'd better get a move on then." Without another word, Dave slipped the needle under Carter's skin, sliding it around a bit until he found what he was looking for. "You know, all through Med School, they always said 'Never give epi in a vein.' Now, I don't know about you, but I've always wondered what would happen if I did. Ahhh... there it is."
Carter felt a burning sensation as the epinephrine made its way directly into his bloodstream, and he jerked his arm as far away as he could. The tip of the needle broke off and remained embedded in his skin, and Dave dropped the syringe to the floor. It rolled under the gurney where Dave couldn't see it any more.
"Damn it!" Dave yelled, his eyes darting around immediately to make certain that no one had heard. He saw Luka standing in one of the curtain areas outside the window, and cursed himself silently when the man started to turn his head. "Well, Carter, I think it's time for me to go now." He reached out and patted Carter on the shoulder, making it look to Luka as if he were doing nothing more than comforting a friend. "You have a nice life now. Well, what's left of it anyway."
And then he was gone.
Carter was alone in the room. He could almost trace the path the epinephrine was making through his veins, inching ever closer to his heart. How much longer before it got there? How many minutes did he have left to live?
He closed his eyes and listened to the heart monitor, concentrating on the steady rhythm it was counting. He heard the first syncopated beat, and he started keeping track of the seconds in his mind. He lost count quickly, and soon couldn't even remember why he had been trying.
Luka walked into the room only moments after Dave had exited, and he walked to the gurney slowly. He looked down at Carter's face, and was surprised to see Carter looking back at him. "You're awake!" Luka said cheerfully. "Let me go get Kerry then, and we'll see about getting that tube out, all right? Abby will be so glad to see you..."
Carter blinked and tried to focus on Luka's face, but his vision was growing blurry. His left eye was almost entirely useless. The fingers of his left hand were starting to tingle, but he couldn't understand why he should be alarmed about that.
Luka turned to leave the room, but was stopped by the scream of an alarm behind him. He spun quickly, checking the readouts on the machines, and was shocked by what he saw. Carter's blood pressure, which moments before had been perfectly normal, was skyrocketing. "Carter?" Luka asked in alarm, snapping his fingers in front of the young doctor's face, trying to get his attention. "Carter, what's wrong? What's going on?"
For less than a heartbeat, cloudy brown eyes locked with clear dark ones, and Carter used the last ounce of his strength to think of Abby. Then, as Luka watched, Carter's eyes fluttered before rolling back in his head, and closing.
"No!" Luka bellowed, startling Haleh, who had just walked in. "Haleh, get Kerry!"
"She's with the..."
"I don't care where she is! Get her now!" Luka glanced once more at the blood pressure monitor, dismayed to see that the numbers had climbed again. "He's stroking out!"
Kerry burst through the door to the trauma room to find Luka, Malik, and Chuny already rushing around, administering to Carter. "CBC, Chem 7, Coag Panel, Lytes, and serum glucose. And run another Tox Screen," Luka barked.
"Luka, what is it?"
"He's hypertensive," Luka answered quickly. "BP 210/120 and climbing."
"What changed, Luka?" was Kerry's question, as she checked the monitors for herself.
"I don't know, Kerry, I wasn't here. He was conscious when I came in, but his pressure started going up, and he passed out."
"All right," Kerry responded, fighting to remain calm. "Let's take him for a CT. Maybe it's not as bad as..."
"He's seizing!" Malik called out as Carter's legs started to twitch violently.
"Damn it!" Kerry cried. "Hold him! Luka, hold his head! Watch the vent!"
The doctors and nurses took up positions around Carter, holding him as still as they could without hurting him. Luka leaned down and wrapped his arms around Carter's head, trying to keep him from pulling the tube out of his throat. "Kerry, if he vomits..." he began, his voice full of worry.
"One thing at a time, Luka," Kerry returned, glancing up when she heard the door opening.
"What's happening?" Abby cried, rushing toward him. "What's happening to him?"
"He's having a stroke," Luka answered as calmly as he could.
"Abby, you need to leave," Kerry commanded.
"No," Abby responded, leaning down beside Luka and helping him to stabilize Carter's head. "Let me stay. Let me help him."
"I'm not arguing with you, Abby!" Kerry shouted.
"Good," Abby replied. "Because neither am I."
Carter's thrashes began to weaken, and slowly ceased altogether. Everyone jumped into action again immediately, unhooking monitors and preparing Carter for the move to radiology. Luka was snapping up the rail on Carter's right side when a glint on the floor caught his eye. He bent down to retrieve it, and heard Kerry call out.
"Chuny, 25 milligrams of Urapidil."
"No!" Luka protested, jumping up from the floor.
"What?" Kerry demanded.
He handed her what he'd found on the floor, and turned to Chuny. "Five milligrams of phentolamine," he ordered. "And quickly. We've got to get him to CT before he seizes again."
"What?" Abby asked in confusion. "What is it?"
"Epinephrine," Kerry replied, holding the large syringe out for Abby to see. "It's an epinephrine overdose."
Abby looked at the needle closely, her eyes widening when she realized the implications. "He's here," she breathed. "Whoever tried to kill him this afternoon...he's here!"
Luka nodded stiffly, convinced that he knew who it was.
"Luka, the needle's broken off," Kerry observed, handing the syringe back to him. "The other piece should be in the injection site still."
"We'll have to look for it later," Luka returned, unhooking the ET tube from the vent and attaching an ambu-bag in its place. "Malik, bag him. We've got to get the CT."
The group ran from the trauma room, pushing Carter's gurney toward Radiology. Luka lagged behind slightly, and stepped to the side to speak to Peter. "Give this to the police," he told him quietly, keeping his voice low enough that only Peter could hear him. "And don't touch it."
"What the hell...?" Peter began, looking back at him in shock as he pulled his sleeve down to take the syringe from the doctor's hand.
"Dave," Luka said, glancing around to make certain that Cleo didn't overhear him.
Peter's eyes narrowed as they darkened. "Got it."
Luka nodded his head once in affirmation. "I'll find you when I can," he said, and then turned and hurried down the hall toward Radiology.
Peter looked down at the large syringe in his hand, and then back up at the corner Luka had disappeared around. Setting his jaw in determination, he turned and headed back to the lounge to find Paul Marcus.
"Peter!" Cleo called as she rushed to catch up with him. "Peter, what is it?"
Peter pushed open the door and walked into the lounge, leaving Cleo standing, unanswered, in the hall.
"Pressure's coming down," Malik reported.
Luka and Kerry shared a sigh of relief. The trip to Radiology had been uneventful. Carter hadn't had another seizure, and now seemed to be responding well to the phentolamine Luka had ordered to counteract the effects of the epinephrine. Twenty-five minutes later, the crisis appeared to have passed, and Carter's blood pressure was slowly returning to normal.
Security had been alerted to the attempt on Carter's life, and a guard was stationed in the hallway. Abby looked over her shoulder at the guard as she pulled the stool back to John's side and sat down, taking his hand in hers. "It's going to be all right now, baby," she whispered to him. "Everything's going to be all right."
Kerry allowed herself a small smile when she turned to Luka. "That was a good call, Luka, on the phentolamine. If you hadn't caught that..."
Detective Marcus walked through the door then, clearing his throat to announce his presence. "How is he?" he asked, jerking his head in Carter's direction.
"He's still unconscious," Luka responded without looking up. "But he's stabilizing, and he should be waking up soon."
"Good," Marcus replied, looking at Luka in confusion. "What are you doing?"
"I'm looking for the broken end of the needle," Luka answered, running his hands slowly and carefully up and down the inside of Carter's right arm. "It should still be lodged in the skin at the injection site." Luka's head snapped up a few seconds later. "There it is. Malik?"
Malik put the tweezers in Luka's outstretched hand, and only moments later Luka was holding the small piece of hollow metal up for inspection. "Got it."
"I'll take that please, Dr. Kovac," Marcus said, holding a small clear plastic bag toward him. Luka dropped the broken needle into the bag, and started to lay the tweezers down on the equipment tray. "I'll take that too, if you don't mind," Marcus continued, gesturing toward the tweezers.
Luka shrugged and put them in the bag. "I don't understand why you need them," Luka said.
"I need to talk to you, Dr. Kovac," the detective said, motioning toward the hall with his head. "Could you come with me please?"
"Why?" Abby asked, looking up from John's hand.
"I just need to talk to him, Miss Lockhart. It won't take long." He turned back to Luka. "Dr. Kovac?"
Luka nodded in confusion, and followed the man out into the hall. "I'll be right back, Abby."
Luka turned toward the detective as soon as the door closed.
"Dr. Kovac, I think I should tell you that you are considered a suspect in the attacks on Dr. John Carter, and that anything you say about these incidents may be used against you later."
Luka's eyes flew open in shock. "You're arresting ME?"
Marcus shook his head. "No, I'm not arresting anyone right now. Not until Dr. Carter is awake and is able to answer a few questions."
"Didn't Peter tell you who it is?"
"He did tell me that you felt it was a..." Marcus trailed off as he checked his notes. "A David Malucci?"
"Yes, Dave. He was alone with Carter right before..."
"So were you, Dr. Kovac."
"Yes, I was. That's why I know I didn't do it." Luka was astonished, and his voice was growing tight. "I told you who's doing this. You should be out looking for him, not here questioning me."
"I have already done some checking into this Malucci fellow. It looks to me as though he and Dr. Carter are pretty good friends, and have been for some time. However, Dr. Kovac, the same cannot be said of you."
Luka rolled his eyes. "This is ridiculous!"
"You had a relationship with Miss Lockhart, did you not? One that predated the one Dr. Carter is having with her now?"
"Yes," Luka answered through his teeth. "But that doesn't mean..."
"You were heard, less than a week ago, to tell Miss Lockhart that you missed her, and that you would get her back, is that correct?"
"I was drunk," Luka explained.
"You were upset," Marcus countered. "At least, that's what you told the officer that responded to the car accident you were in later that night."
"I can't believe this..."
"And that car accident resulted in a medical student, a Miss Erin Harkins, nearly dying, did it not?"
"It was an accident!" Luka spat.
"Where were you this afternoon, Dr. Kovac? Your timecard shows that you clocked in shortly after Dr. Benton arrived here with Dr. Carter."
"I didn't do this!" Luka protested. "You're wasting your time talking to me when you should be trying to find Dave!"
"You have twice argued against the course of treatment Dr. Weaver has ordered, haven't you?"
"There's more involved than that," Luka argued. "She wasn't taking something into account that I thought she should have. And she didn't know about the epi."
"And how did you know, Dr. Kovac?"
"I found the syringe on the floor!"
"And you knew immediately what had been in it?"
"So did she, as soon as she saw it. It was too large to have been used for anything else."
"Then there's the matter of a mugger, an unidentified man, who died at your hands two years ago."
"Self defense," Luka answered quickly.
"You've got an answer for everything, don't you, Dr. Kovac?"
Luka sighed in frustration. "And you are an idiot." He turned to walk back into Carter's room, but stopped and faced Marcus one more time. "I did not do this to him. Dave is the man you want."
"Don't go back in there," Marcus said threateningly. "I'm not going to allow you anywhere near him."
"Fine," Luka replied, pushing past the detective on his way to the lounge.
"I strongly advise you not to leave the hospital, Dr. Kovac!" Marcus called out from behind him.
Luka ignored him and walked into the lounge, grabbing his coat and walking out the ambulance bay doors before anyone could stop him. He jogged down the alley and out to the street, his eyes darting from side to side constantly.
If the police weren't going to look for Dave Malucci, then he and Peter would have to do it themselves.
Peter approached the apartment building warily, his eyes constantly checking for signs that anything was amiss. All of the windows were dark; Peter wondered if the tenants had evacuated themselves out of fear, or if the police had told them to vacate the building for the night. The police themselves were nowhere to be seen, and Peter shrugged. Either the investigation had been suspended for the night, or they'd already found everything they needed. He lifted the bright yellow crime scene tape and bent at the waist, stepping under it quickly.
The front door was ajar.
Peter stared up at it from the steps for a moment. Would the police have left the door to a crime scene open? Certainly not. Maybe one of the tenants had not closed it completely in a rush to leave. Again, no, because the police would surely have still been there to make sure the scene was secure.
That could really only mean one thing.
Dave had come back once that day; he'd done it again.
Peter finished climbing the stairs without a sound, and pushed the door open quietly. One look at the splintered wood on the doors confirmed his original speculation, and he looked up the stairs with dark, narrow eyes. The son of a bitch was there.
Peter ascended to the second floor, his eyes never wavering from the wide-open door to Carter and Abby's apartment. Dave had tried to kill Carter not once, but twice. Both times he had attacked Carter in the places he should feel the most safe: at home and at the hospital. He had returned to the scene of his original crime two separate times, and Peter wondered for a second what had happened to make Dave turn on his friend so suddenly and violently. He'd had his differences with Malucci, and he'd never claim to have really liked the man. But he'd never seemed particularly unstable or psychotic. Maybe there was something really wrong with him; maybe Malucci was a truly sick man in need of help. Maybe Peter should show some compassion and understanding and try to see to it that Dave got better.
Maybe Peter just needed to get his hands around the man's neck.
The moon shone through the windows, casting on eerie light on the silent apartment. Peter could see the faint leavings of the fingerprinting dust everywhere: on the walls, the floors, the furniture. He noticed a tiny beam of light shining from around the bathroom door, and he felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. Slowly, carefully, his senses heightened to detect anything unexpected, he crossed the floor and pushed the door open.
Not much had changed. The police hadn't even bothered to clean up the blood, though he doubted that was part of their job to begin with. The syringe was gone, as was the razorblade. He saw his cell phone still lying on the floor under the sink, and he bent to retrieve it. It beeped as he picked it up, and he jumped involuntarily. He forced his heart to slow down as he realized that it was just the phone alerting him to a message. Glancing around once more to make certain he was alone, he entered the code to retrieve the message and pressed the phone to his ear.
The voice that spoke to him through the phone made his blood run cold.
"Nighty night, Dr. Pete."
"What the hell..." Peter began, spinning back toward the door as he suddenly sensed someone standing behind him.
He didn't even see what hit him.
Dave stood over Peter's unconscious form, a short length of pipe in his hand. As a small trickle of blood began to run from Peter's scalp to his forehead, Dave grinned.
Abby sat alone on the bench in the ambulance bay, a forgotten cigarette burning between her fingers as she gazed up at the stars above. To describe the day's events as overwhelming would have been an understatement. To describe them as shocking would have been simplistic. To say they were unexpected would have been ludicrous. How could she describe what it felt like to have someone repeatedly try to kill John? How could she even begin to explain how it felt to almost lose him so quickly after she'd finally found him to begin with? So wrapped in her own thoughts was she that she didn't realize Susan had come outside to sit beside her until the other woman nudged her in the ribs.
Abby sighed and leaned back, looking down at the fading glow of embers before tossing the cigarette on the ground. "Should I be?"
Susan rubbed her legs against the cold and looked at her friend. "I don't know."
"I thought he did it, Susan," Abby began, the words rushing out before she even realized she was thinking them. "I thought...I mean, I honestly believed that he'd...how could I think that he would..."
"Hey, we all did," Susan interrupted. "And I'll tell you, after what I saw in that trauma room, I think we were supposed to."
"Yeah, but I shouldn't have, you know? Things are going great...well, as great as they can anyway. He's happy. And he doesn't just seem happy. He actually is. And it's his birthday..."
"I thought his birthday was in June."
Abby smiled softly. "His NA birthday. Two years today he's been clean. We were going to do something tonight, go see a show or something, to celebrate."
"Oh, wow," Susan said quietly. "I had no idea."
Abby just nodded, returning her gaze to the clear dark sky as Susan shoved her own hands deeper into her pockets.
"It's getting cold out here," Susan observed.
"Is it?" Abby sounded surprised.
"It's ten o'clock at night, in December, in Chicago. Of course it's cold."
"Yeah, I guess it is."
Susan stood, looking down at Abby as she did so. "Come inside." Abby made no move to do so, and Susan continued. "He's all right now, Abby."
"I hope so," Abby whispered.
Susan gave no indication if she had heard the wish, but placed her hand on her friend's back. "He'll be waking up soon. And I don't even want to be the first face he sees this time. He's going to be mad enough at me as it is."
Abby sighed and stood, following Susan toward the doors. Suddenly Abby stopped, staring through the doors without really seeing what was behind them.
"Abby?" Susan asked, her voice full of concern.
Abby turned and locked eyes with her friend, and the events of the day replayed in her mind. Things she'd felt, things she'd done, things she'd said...
"I love him." Silent tears rolled down Abby's cheeks as she fully realized just exactly what those words meant. "God, Susan, I love him so much."
Susan simply smiled, and wrapped her arm around Abby's shoulder. "I know."
"What?" Abby asked, looking at her in surprise.
"I've known for months, Abby. Hell...I've been wondering why it was taking you so long to figure it out."
Abby let out a small laugh and wiped the tears from her cheeks. "I think I've known for a long time, actually. Years. I just...I just never thought to say it."
"Well," Susan began, smiling as she and Abby made their way through the doors. "I might be wrong about this, but I think you're telling the wrong person."
"I already told him," Abby answered softly. "I just don't know if he heard me or not."
"Then maybe you should tell him again."
They walked down the hallway in silence until they reached the door to Trauma Two, and then both stood just looking in.
"Go on," Susan urged, pushing the door open slightly. "Go tell him again."
Abby smiled and nodded as she walked into the darkened room. "Thank you, Susan."
A few moments later, satisfied that both Carter and Abby were going to be all right, Susan smiled and walked away.
Luka pulled up in front of the apartment building and looked out his window. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, except for the bright yellow police tape that circled the building. There were no cars on the street, no one was around, and the door was closed. The only thing that seemed different was that all of the windows were dark, but he figured that everyone that lived in the building had just decided to sleep somewhere else that night. He took a deep breath and turned the ignition off, climbing out of the rented car and walking toward the building slowly.
The door swung open easily when he pushed on it, and he noticed for the first time the splintered wood and the pry marks that marred the area around the latches on both doors. Luka glanced up and around him, looking for any sign that someone was in the building with him. Seeing and hearing nothing, he began to climb the stairs to the apartment Carter now shared with Abby.
He stopped at the top of the landing and stared at the open door. So little had changed in the past year that he found himself momentarily slipping back in time to a time when he had been the one using a key to open this apartment. He had been the one who would act as the man of the house, though he had never actually lived there. Abby would open her door, and her bedroom, to him. They would watch television, or not, as the mood struck them. They had been so close to being a family then, he and Abby.
Now it was all Carter.
Dave had tried to take everything away from them. He had tried twice to kill Carter that day, and Luka couldn't help but wonder how things would have changed had he been successful. Abby would have been devastated, most certainly. And Luka wondered if she'd have turned to him for comfort.
He'd had a chance to find out, he knew. He could have simply turned the blood pressure monitor off and walked back out of the room, leaving Carter to die on the gurney. Saving him had been an instinct, an immediate reaction. He hadn't thought about it, or contemplated not intervening. And to be honest, Abby hadn't entered his mind at all at the time. Carter had been in serious trouble, and Luka had stepped in to help him. He thought it might even be possible that somewhere, deep down, he might actually like Carter.
Luka shook his head and forced the thoughts from his mind. Now was not the time to be analyzing his relationship with Carter and Abby. He had more important things to do.
He had to find Dave.
He walked into the apartment and looked around the familiar rooms, uncertain as to what he was actually looking for. He saw the shaft of light from the bathroom cutting through the darkness of the apartment, and he walked toward it. He tried to push the door open, but felt resistance on the other side. He pulled back slightly, and rammed his shoulder in to the door, shoving it open a few inches more. He repeated the action until he heard a muffled curse shouted weakly on the other side. The door was open far enough for him to look into the bathroom and see what was in the way.
Peter moaned and rolled away from the door, giving Luka the space he needed to enter the room.
"Peter, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were there..."
Peter waved him off and tried to sit up, swaying a bit as he did so. Luka placed a hand against his back to help steady the surgeon.
"Peter, what happened?"
"Dave," Peter answered, touching his head carefully where it throbbed.
Luka inspected the area on Peter's head quickly, easily finding the large bump and the oozing blood. "You're going to need stitches on that," he observed. "Most certainly a concussion, if not a fracture. We need to get you back to..."
Peter blinked a few times, and pulled away from Luka's hand. "No, no, I'm all right. I just need a...just give me a minute."
"You were unconscious, you're bleeding, you're..."
Luka sighed, momentarily giving up on winning the argument. "When I left, he was stabilizing. His blood pressure was going back down. The CT confirmed a mild stroke, but I think we got his BP back down in time to avoid any serious long-term damage."
Peter turned to look up at him, squinting against the harsh lights. "Why are you here? Why aren't you still there with him?"
"Someone has to find Dave."
"You know, I thought the same thing when I came here. Now, I'm thinking maybe we should just let the police find him." Peter held his head as he pushed himself to his feet, grateful when Luka took him by the arms and helped him to stand.
"Yes, well...we have a small problem there."
"What? With the police?"
"What kind of problem?"
"Well...they think I did it."
Peter stared at him, dumbfounded. "You're kidding."
Luka shook his head and pursed his lips. "I wish I were."
Peter rubbed his head again as he began walking shakily out of the bathroom. "So who exactly is looking for Dave?"
Luka looked at Peter, locking eyes with him and not saying a word.
"Right," Peter acknowledged, stumbling a bit in the door. Luka grabbed him quickly to keep him from falling to the floor. "I think I'll reconsider going to the ER for the moment, though."
"I think that's probably for the best, Peter. There's a guard on Carter's room, and he should be safe where he is. Dave would have to be crazy to go back there again."